Your child is suffering from sleep deprivation if:
• Sleeping through the alarm.
• Can’t stop yawning.
• Groggy and lethargic through the day.
• Spaced out, distracted most of the time.
• Caught napping at school or sleeping odd hours during the day.
• Nodding off while doing homework
• Having a hard time concentrating on important tasks at work.
• Snapping at friends and family members.
• Letting the schoolwork and homework pile up.
• Frequent memory lapse.
Your yawning, bleary-eyed child doesn’t need to express more explicitly that he requires more sleep. Ask teachers of city schools and they will tell you how some of their teenage students drift off to Neverland quite frequently in class. Sleep deprivation can pose serious problems.
Picture a typical day in the life of a teenager — waking up early in the morning for school, eight hours of classes followed by physical activities, completing homework, studying and repeating the same mundane cycle all over again.
|Dr Amita Phadnis
Amid this arduous schedule, the average teenager is increasingly being compelled to resort to substituting some precious sleep hours to get some ‘me-time’.
Pushing the night hours further to squeeze in TV and social networking time, they exhaust themselves even more, resulting in irregular sleep patterns, erratic eating habits, and unnecessary indulgences, which end up posing grave health problems at an early age.
But if the smart parent can recognise any signs of sleep deprivation, they and the child will be better equipped to cope with it.
|Dr Jyoti Shetty
“There’s simply no replacement for a good night’s sleep,” maintains Dr Amita Phadnis, paediatrician. “While an average teenager needs about nine hours on average, most adults need seven to eight hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as five hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day.
Today sadly children while growing up too fast are showing startling signs of sleeping habits of an adult. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have forgotten that they are still children.” There are many reasons behind why teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep — obstructive sleep apnea could be one of them.
However, apart from natural causes, an overdose of watching TV shows late in the night, surfing the internet and spending too much time on social networking services could be the primary agents.
According to Dr Amita, “The persisting reason behind sleep deprivation is the fast paced lives that we lead nowadays. To catch up, one has to remain updated. Social networking is one of the main reasons why teenagers remain awake late in the night.
Private chats make them happy so kids don’t mind if it pries into their sleep hours. Biological research also shows that the sleep rhythm in the teenagers’ body makes them sleep late.
Melatonin — a sleep hormone in the body also causes the tendency to sleep late. Some kids find getting up early for school an impossible task. There are many schools abroad which start by 8:40 am and 9 am — schools in India should take note of this.”
“It’s a vicious cycle — if you don’t get enough sleep your body needs to catch up on it sometime later,” explains Dr Jyoti Shetty, psychiatrist. “The amount of sleep your child needs also increases if s/he has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Getting too little sleep creates a ‘sleep debt’.
Eventually, your body will demand that the lack of sleep be repaid. Young teens especially can tend to fall into this circle where they don’t seem to adapt to getting less sleep than they need.” Adds Dr Amita, “Lack of sleep results in skin problems, there is more acne, increased stress levels, and mood swing cycles.”
“It is disheartening to see so many children in the class dozing off by two in the afternoon,” says Prabha*, a schoolteacher of a well-known city school. “Earlier I used to get annoyed but slowly realised that this was not just happening in my class.
Other teachers were complaining as well. We tried talking to the child who looked sheepish being caught napping. Frankly I believe that the parents should see to it that their children sleep off by 10 o’clock latest to wake up fresh in the morning by 6. 30. The child — if a Std X student — should get his wholesome hours of sleep.”
Jyoti K, primary school teacher shares an incident when a student from her class would often doze off during school hours. “When we informed his parents, they were clueless and had no answer to explain why their son was falling off to sleep in class.
However, they later confessed to tagging him along to watch late night shows and parties. The parents excused themselves by saying, they couldn’t leave him at home alone.” She adds, “These days, even primary school children stay up late to watch a film, the reason why they get sleepy and cranky in class.”
Sleep cycle and sleep patterns differ from person to person. It is also a proven fact that some are nocturnal while some are ‘morning persons’. Teenagers need to understand their sleep cycle.
For this purpose, there are ‘sleep disorder clinics’abroad and India, too, is fast catching this trend. Depending on the biological rhythm of the sleep pattern, the child can find out at what time of the day he performs the best. Kids also avail of sleep counselling and be aware of the effects of sleep deprivation.
Knowing the benefits of nine hours of sleep can be instrumental in motivating them to improve their sleep patterns. Adds Dr Shetty, “Apart from displaying a healthy lifestyle themselves for the kids to emulate, parents need to exert some basic restrictions on their kids — getting them to sleep early and giving a structured format to their schedules.
Another important stimulus causing this trend is the increasing level of consumption of ‘energy drinks’ like Red Bull or black coffee. Kids should refrain from drinking them as they are unhealthy stimulants and disrupt their sleep patterns.”
Homework for parents
It is time for parents too to wake up to a new reality. The ball, uneasily enough, seems to be in their court. “When parents lead a balanced life which includes sleeping on time, their lifestyles automatically reflect on the children, be it teenagers or toddlers,” says Prabha.
“Small factors like seeing their parents awake till late in the night or even finding the lights on, makes it impossible for the child to want to sleep on time. Permitting the child to watch night shows and as late as 10 pm and later should be a strict no-no.”
But keep in mind that while explaining reasons for this problem or living in denial or playing the blame game may help you and your child survive a busy day, the only cure for a lack of sleep is getting some long Zzzz’s — in the night and not during day hours.
(Mother of a 14-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter)
“I am very particular when it comes to sleep discipline. On weekdays I make sure my kids go to bed by 10:30pm so that they can comfortably wake up the next morning by 7am. They do not sleep in the afternoon because it’s almost 4pm by the time they get back from school.
After school hours are reserved for homework, assignments and sports. A good night’s sleep is essential as the kids can get cranky and irritable if their mind is not calm or days not balanced.
The family has dinner together so the kids get to spend adequate time with us. This family time entails no cellphones, laptops or social networking.
On weekends, the kids are allowed to attend sleepovers so it’s okay if they sleep late as they need their own space, but on weekdays adequate sleep is imperative.
My children aren’t allowed to spend more than 15 minutes on social networking websites on weekdays before going to bed. I’ve also taught them to recite some chants or gratitude prayers before going to bed to calm their mind.
I am also not of the belief that kids should stay awake all night before their exam so I make sure they start revising their lessons 10 days prior.
(Mother of an 18-year-old son)
“A child goes through different phases out of which teenage is one. Speaking from a parent’s point of view, we give birth to our kids and they are 20 to 25 years younger to us so it’s our responsibility to make them listen to us.
My son surfs social networking websites but not for very long. Letting kids sleep late in the night and waste time on video games and unnecessary activities and then complaining about kids not listening to orders is simply an excuse some parents give.
It is necessary to inculcate the right culture in kids from the beginning. Leniency is essential in upbringing but parents should make sure the kids don’t misuse it. My son is an avid reader and has grown up to be an extremely creative person
A study conducted by doctors at Jaslok Hospital has revealed that 8 out of 10 teenagers suffer from sleep deprivation.
The survey, Sleepiness Patterns in Urban Adolescents in Western India, says that one in every four teenagers between 13 and 15 years of age is suffering from ‘significant sleep deprivation’ (only four to six hours per night), and 57 per cent from ‘moderate sleep deprivation’ (six to eight hours), both conditions which could lead to serious health problems in the long run.
The main reason for this alarming trend, according to this study, is excessive exposure to technology: long hours spent in front of the TV, on video games, on mobile phones, and on the Internet. “An adolescent should sleep for between eight-and-a-half hours to nine-and-a-quarter hours to maintain good health.
But this mandatory target was consistently met by hardly any of the 314 teenagers covered in the survey,” informs Dr Preeti Devnani of Jaslok hospital’s department of neurology and neurophysiology.
Doctors discovered that the lack of sleep led to teenagers constantly operating below their potential during the course of any normal day.
Some 32.16 per cent of kids surveyed felt drowsy soon after they reached school, 25 per cent towards the day’s last class, 20 per cent on their way back, 30 per cent after they got back home, and 55 per cent in the early evening. As many as 20 per cent got ‘sleep attacks’; in other words, they did not realise they had fallen asleep until they were woken up.